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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


More on parking lots

My column about parking lot escapades struck a nerve with readers.  The behavior of drivers in these automotive arenas has made lasting impressions on many participants.

Reader L.M. remarked that my description of careless parking lot escapades certainly “rang true” with her.  And she further explained, “Last June I was leaving a Shopko parking lot when I was hit hard on the driver’s side.  He must have been coming quite fast because I didn’t see him at all.  The side air bags in both front and back deployed.  The car, a sedan, was totaled.  I thank God that I had my seat belt on because I think that is what protected me from serious injury or worse. One finger was broken by being jammed into the steering wheel.”

Ascribing insult to injury, she added, “The other driver, a young man, had no insurance, did not own the SUV he was driving, and its license tabs had expired in February.  Since we were on private property, the police wouldn’t come.”

Speed in parking lots is not enforced.   Since (as L.M. noted) these lots are private property, law enforcement does not generally monitor them — I was once told by a Washington State Patrol Trooper that they can only issue citations they can issue therein are for reckless or drunken driving.

C.P. concurred about the parking lot melee, stating, “I, too, have similar experiences in parking lots!  They seem to be the least safe places to drive.  Growing up, my dad always said that the speed limit in a parking lot is 5 miles per hour (I grew up in California).”

While not an enforceable law in California, the 5 mph limit referenced by C.P.’s dad is a worthy one for speed in parking lots.  Some lots in California post a speed limit, like 5 mph, but they are not true laws or ordinances.  They are likely posted to ameliorate liability when litigating accidents borne of speed on private property.  Owners of parking lots can post those signs if they wish, but they are not enforceable by police.

One reader said that driving in a parking lot should be like taxiing an airplane on the congested tarmac — very slow and with extreme caution.

Reader D.M. said she enjoyed the column, agreeing that parking lots are “so much fun.”  She also quipped sarcastically, “I was only going to use the disabled spot for a few minutes to run into the store.”

J.A. learned the hard way that even careful may not be careful enough.  As she backed out of a parking lot spot, she struck a car speeding through the lot behind her that “came out of nowhere.”  When cars are travelling too fast in a parking lot, they can indeed appear out of “nowhere” due to the suddenness of their arrival.  Additionally, when backing from a spot, vision is often obscured by tall vehicles astride yours.  At these times, you must back up extremely slowly while “blind,” giving approaching drivers time to see and avoid you.

By nature, without lanes and having no established right of ways, signals or speed limits, parking lots are dangerous.  Adding pedestrians without crosswalks to the existing vehicle population that is lacking traffic control creates a volatile mix.  Although there are many mishaps in these arenas, it’s amazing they function as well as they do!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at